My name is Layla. My story starts much like the stories of the other dogs who Michael Vick and his cohorts victimized in the cruelest and most terrifying ways at Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia.
I think I was born there…I can’t remember being anywhere else before that bad place. We were all forced to live our own nightmares. I was a frightened fighting machine.
When I was around 4 years old, we were rescued from the bad people and 18 of us went to the Sussex County Shelter, where I became Sussex 2609. It was so hard for me to be close to other dogs that I couldn’t relax. I always barked and circled and felt so wound up that I wanted to jump out of my skin! You see, up until then, something bad always happened when I was this close to another dog. (Even after all these years, I’ve never been able to unlearn that.)
Well, after a long time, I finally went on an airplane to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with 21 other Vick dogs and we became the Vicktory Dogs! Oh, and someone nice along the way, who happened to be a boxing fan, named me Layla (after Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter). Goodbye Bad Newz, goodbye Sussex 2609, hello hope and relief!
My life got so much better at Best Friends. I was surrounded by really nice people who kept me safe, warm and well fed. They let me live in my very own run, since living with other dogs is really not “my thing”. They treated my wounds, repaired my torn ACL, gave me hydrotherapy and pain relief for my arthritis, loved me, taught me manners and believed in me. I had caregivers who massaged me, played music for me, trained me, and spent their precious time to help me recover.
I eventually got to go live in Jacque’s office, who manages Parrot Garden (She became my Jacque-Mom), so I could get far away from other dogs and could think calmly enough to stop barking and fencing and circling.
While I was living with the birds and my Jacque-Mom, she let me be an ambassador for ex-fighting dogs for the many tour buses that came through the sanctuary. Jacque-Mom would bring me out to say hello and she would tell my story and I would receive all the butt-scratches and baby-talk the visitors could dish out! I felt so good being cared for by Jacque-Mom and Papa Kevin (my brother Ray’s mom and dad) that I was able to pass my CGC test, which I was court-ordered to pass before I could go to my forever home.
Now, after almost 6 years of kindness and patience from my caregivers, I was up for adoption! If I did get adopted, I was going to miss the things I loved at Best Friends: long, long walks with Papa Kevin, Jacque-Mom’s attention and encouragement and both of their help in my training to know how to live outside of Best Friends.
Papa Kevin started to call me “Bean” and now it’s one my names! I hoped there would be car rides, and boiled chicken, and snugly blankets, and golf cart rides, and people who would teach me and keep me calm and call me “Bean” wherever I went next!
My lucky day came at the Vicktory Dog Reunion honoring 6 of the adopted Vicktory Dogs and their new families: Halle, Handsome Dan, Cherry, Little Red, Mel and Oscar; and reuniting them with their wonderful caregivers and with each other. Lots of people came to hear the stories of their new lives.
Jacque-Mom and Papa Kevin brought me there to announce that I had passed my CGC and was now ready to leave Best Friends. I was so excited that day that I sat and trembled with anticipation. Maybe I would finally find my forever family too!
A nice lady wanted to sit and meet me, and while she was petting me, a nice man came up to us. The nice lady said to the nice man “meet your new daughter”! They became my new mom and dad.
It turns out, my new mom was starting an internship at Best Friends, so I got to see her every day for 5 weeks before I went home forever with her. This helped me a lot, because I had never had a real home before and I was going to be scared enough in a strange place with strange things, maybe with new rules and for sure with new noises (hopefully no loud bangs).
I started to get used to my new mom and I decided in those 5 weeks that I liked her, so I would sing when she came up the walk at Parrot Gardens to let her know I was ready for our walk and our time together! That made her smile.
The day came for me to go home and everyone treated me extra special. Virginia made me boiled chicken, I got to have a bath and I got a special necklace with a GPS device, Jacque-Mom and Papa Kevin and my good friend Justyne were there to kiss me goodbye and then I got in the car and came home!
I slept the whole way and when I got home, it was nice but weird! There were new things everywhere and I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to sleep, or potty, or relax, or find my food and water. But my new mom and dad helped me learn all of that and I learned how to be in my own family after almost 10 years of life!
Now I have some new friends that are helping me try to learn about keeping calm when I pass dogs on my walks, and are preparing me for another test so I can be a therapy dog. The only hard part is that some dogs make me so nervous that I lunge and whine and can’t think calmly!
Jacque-Mom always thought that my calling was in therapy work, and my new mom and dad think I’m a natural at enthusiastically meeting people in my community and showing them that I’m not a monster. And I’m NOT! I’m just a regular dog with some special circumstances and some special needs.
My mom and dad always keep me safe and only let nice people be with me. I got a treat from a little girl wearing butterfly wings at Home Depot the other day; I got to go meet a group of teenagers at AAWL (Arizona Animal Welfare League) and tell my story; I got to kiss a really tiny little girl on her finger and on her forehead at the park…and my mom never has her camera ready when it happens! C’mon mom…I’m making history here!
Life is really good now. Since I live in Scottsdale which isn’t too far from Best Friends, I sometimes get to go back and see my old friends. In my new life, I get to meet all kinds of people. Some love animals, some want to say hi to me, some stay far away from me, some are a lot smaller than the people I’m used to seeing, some ignore me, some want to hear my story and some want to help me.
I have 4 older brothers and sisters, I have a nice grandma, new friends and neighbors…and I get to be an only dog, just like I always wanted! And that’s my story.